Here’s one of the worst apologies we’ve ever seen. It was made this week by Buffalo Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, headlined “Regarding Priest Gathering at St. Leo the Great Parish” (What a conveniently vague and misleading headline. It should read “Regarding my incredibly mean-spirited decision to celebrate mass with at least four accused or credibly accused abusers.”)
Let’s look at this in detail.
“Concern has been expressed over my decision to allow priests who have been placed on administrative leave or who do not have faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly to participate in Mass with me and other priests. . . .
–The bishop can’t even bring himself to use clear and correct language about the four alleged abusers in question: two who are credibly accused of child sexual abuse (Fr. Fabian J. Maryanski and Fr. Mark J. Wolsk) and two who are accused of sexual misconduct (Fr. Art Smith and Fr. Joseph Gatto).
Could he have possibly have devised a more sanitized way of describing men who have likely inflicted severe pain on vulnerable adults and innocent kids than this one: “priests who have been placed on administrative leave or who do not have faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly.”
“This was a private Mass. . . .”
–So what? It’s OK to tolerate wrongdoing as long as it’s kept secret?
“I deeply regret that this decision . . . opened the door to yet another wound for those harmed.”
–It wasn’t ‘the decision.’ It was YOUR decision. It didn’t ‘open the door’ to pain. It caused pain.
“As a family we want to find ways to overcome what fractures us.”
— It’s not about “a family.” It’s about you and your callous choices.
“We will continue to try even as we learn from our failures . . . .”
—It’s not about ‘learning.’ You don’t need to be ‘taught’ to consider the feelings of victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and lay people. You simply need to act with compassion, not selfishness.
Maybe the bishop needs to ‘learn’ about what causes sexual abuse, or what are early warning signs or what might help keep abusive impulses in check.
But even high school drop outs understand that honoring or elevating or sharing stages or altars with offenders hurts their victims. Doing so shows a lack of courage and compassion, not a lack of knowledge or understanding.
“I want to emphasize that in no way should the participation of certain priests be seen as a restoration of their faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly, or certainly not in any way to disregard the grave emotional, physical and spiritual harm inflicted on innocent persons. . . .
—Sorry, too late. You or some of the dozens of clerics who planned and participated in the Mass should have barred these offenders from joining the celebration. Instead, you welcomed them. And that did, in fact, “disregard the grave emotional, physical and spiritual harm inflicted on innocent persons. . . “
Is it possible that neither Scharfenberger nor a single member of his staff or clergy thought this through in advance, and wondered a) if the perpetrators’ involvement might publicly surface and b) if victims and others would be hurt by this?
And if indeed that’s the case, what a serious indictment of the values and focus of these purported spiritual figures – that victims are so invisible to them, despite decades of horrific abuse and cover up.